On Jan. 21, 2017, just one day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, over 400,000 protestors marched in Washington DC in the Women’s March on Washington. They were joined by millions of other protestors from around the world to march in support of numerous feminist causes and resistance to the bigoted agenda of Donald Trump. At the time, it almost seemed like the Women’s March would herald a new wave of popular resistance; however, three years and one Trump term later, very little seems to have changed.
While the original Women’s March drew an unprecedented number of participants, its follow-ups have begun to dwindle. Saturday’s march in DC saw only 10,000 protestors, a fraction of 2017’s turnout. While the Women’s March website has a fairly progressive platform of missions and principles, it’s unclear how the event itself has actualized those principles into meaningful change. The burnout caused from attending march after march without ever seeing much progress is likely one of the factors that has contributed to this slow decline.
From the very beginning, race has played a large role in the discourse surrounding the Women’s March. Feminism in the United States has a long and difficult history of excluding women of color, especially black, Indigenous, and Latina women, and this history has loomed over the Women’s March. Since 2017, the Women’s March has been criticized for centering white, middle-class women over working-class women of color. This problem continues to persist, with the Los Angeles Women’s March snubbing Black Lives Matter and many black women choosing to walk away after previously participating.
Additionally, there has been a continuing controversy over accusations of antisemitism directed at organizers of the march, particularly Palestinian-American Linda Sarsour, who has been criticized for their support of Palestinian liberation. This has created a flashpoint that seems to put fighting antisemitism and supporting Palestians as conflicting goals, however this is a false dichotomy. Supporting Palestinians and supporting Jewish people are not mutually exclusive positions, and to have a truly intersectional feminism both must be present; a feminism that simultaneously fights back against antisemitism while also supporting ending the occupation of Palestine. The ousting of Linda Sarsour and her fellow co-chairs, however, has made many Muslim women weary that the Women’s March is sidelining issues that matter to them and accordingly are choosing to skip the march this year.
In addition to criticism surrounding race and ethnicity, the Women’s March has also faced criticism for its centering of cis women at the expense of trans women and non-binary people. In the fight against patriarchy, trans and non-binary people face extensive oppression and have been among the most marginalized people within both the United States, and within the feminist movement. The Women’s March has been riddled with bioessentialist imagery and rhetoric which links womanhood to genitalia. Much like race, feminism has also had a difficult history with inclusion of trans people, who have frequently been shut out and degraded as “men infiltrating women’s spaces.” While the Women’s March hasn’t been quite as openly hostile to trans women (besides a few exceptions, its lax attitude towards challenging cisnormativity has made many trans people feel weary and question whether the Women’s March truly represents all women.
While the Women’s Marches were incredibly successful at mobilizing people, questions like “how inclusive have these events been” and “what have they accomplished” have to be asked. This type of good-faith criticism is vital as new protest movements spring up, such as the Youth Climate Strike. Organizers must ask themselves how their events will directly advance their movements, and how they can be made to be accessible and inclusive to everyone, otherwise they risk fading out like so many other past movements. The Women’s March, unfortunately, seems like it will continue to be a photoshoot for white cis middle-class liberals and their quippy signs.
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Zoey Turturino is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.